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5 Essential Lessons to Live a Debt-free Life

Paying off credit card debt is a huge accomplishment (and something we can help with). But once you achieve that milestone, it might be even harder to stay out of credit card debt. Shifting your mindset and spending habits can go a long way toward allowing you to live a debt-free life. Here are 5 lessons to master to help you achieve and maintain a debt-free life.

Pay Yourself First

You’ve probably heard this advice more than once over the years, but it’s true. Paying yourself first means putting money from every paycheck into an emergency savings account. Why is that so important? Having ready cash available to pay for emergencies keeps you from turning to credit cards to pay for things like home and auto repairs. It gives you peace of mind that you can maintain a debt-free life, even when things don’t go as planned. Learn more about emergency savings.

Understand the Difference Between Wants and Needs   understanding the difference between wants and needs is important for a debt-free life

This is one of the most basic rules of controlling spending, but also one of the hardest to master. Breaking it down to its most basic concept: needs are what we need to live every day, such as shelter, food, and clothing. Wants are, well, pretty much everything else. But like most things, there are many gray areas. For example, you need a cell phone. But you don’t need to purchase the latest iPhone release as soon as it comes out. It’s not always easy, but taking the time to distinguish between wants and needs will help you maintain a debt free life.

Learn to Make Do

Continuing on a similar theme, learning to “make-do” is an essential skill for living a debt-free life. To continue with the cell phone example, as long as your phone reliably does what you need it to do, there’s no reason to buy a new one just because it can do more. Sure, it’s fun to upgrade to the latest and greatest, but doing so is expensive and unnecessary. The concept of making do is less fashionable than it once was, but our parents and grandparents had it mastered. Check out this article about ways you can make-do.

Start to Plan Ahead

There are times it can seem like an expense just pops up out of nowhere, when in fact, we knew it was coming and just didn’t plan for it. Think of things like annual vehicle registration, traveling to see family, or holiday gift giving. It can be tempting to pull out the credit card to pay for these expenses. But to maintain a debt-free life, you’ll want to plan ahead for them instead. Plan out your year to see where these periodic expenses fall, then start setting money aside to pay for them.

Continue to Follow Your Budget

Achieving debt freedom is a huge accomplishment. And after living on a budget to achieve that goal, it’s easy to think you can let your budget lapse. Don’t give in to that temptation. Following a budget is one of the things that got you here and it’s one of the things that will help you continue to live a debt-free life. Be sure to check your budget regularly and make any necessary adjustments, but don’t leave it in the past.

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